The Withdrawal Agreement: What It Is and What It Means for the UK
The Withdrawal Agreement, also known as the Brexit Deal, is the agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom that sets out the terms of the UK`s departure from the EU. It was negotiated by former Prime Minister Theresa May and later ratified by the UK Parliament and the European Parliament. The Withdrawal Agreement became legally binding on January 31, 2020, when the UK officially left the EU.
What Does the Agreement Cover?
The Withdrawal Agreement covers several key issues, including the UK`s financial obligations to the EU, citizens` rights, and the Northern Ireland border. Here is a breakdown of the main points:
1. Financial Obligations
The UK agreed to pay a financial settlement of around £33 billion to the EU. This includes payments for outstanding commitments, such as scientific research and infrastructure projects, and contributions to the EU budget until the end of the current budget cycle.
2. Citizens` Rights
The Withdrawal Agreement protects the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and UK citizens living in the EU. These rights include the right to live, work, and study in their respective countries, as well as access to healthcare and social security benefits.
3. Northern Ireland Border
Perhaps the most contentious issue in the negotiations was the status of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The Withdrawal Agreement includes the Northern Ireland Protocol, which creates a special status for Northern Ireland that effectively keeps it in the EU`s single market and customs union. This means that goods can move freely between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, but it also means that there will be checks on goods moving between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
What Happens Next?
The Withdrawal Agreement provides for a transition period, during which the UK will continue to follow EU rules and regulations. This period is due to end on December 31, 2020. During this time, the UK and the EU will negotiate a future trade deal. If no agreement is reached, the UK will leave the EU without a trade deal, which could have significant economic consequences.
In conclusion, the Withdrawal Agreement is a complex document that sets out the terms of the UK`s departure from the EU. While it provides some certainty for citizens and businesses in the short term, there are still many questions about the future relationship between the UK and the EU. The next few months will be crucial in determining what that relationship will look like.